Meet Kris Wong Davis, vice provost for enrollment management

Q1: Could you please you summarize your role as vice provost for enrollment management?

It’s actually incredibly difficult to summarize the role without either oversimplifying it or sounding self-serving. Perhaps the best way to describe Enrollment Management is to say it is the bedrock of the University. It is the University’s lifeline of students, student financial support, and access to courses, degree certification, and all of the business elements which allow students to matriculate in, through and out of the University. We are the nexus of facilities, teaching, access, information, data, etc., for undergraduate students. Given that, my role is to be strategic, visionary, collaborative, informed, accessible, transparent, and a good communicator. I am responsible for leading the EM teams but also for being a resource and presence across campus providing data, information and insights about enrollment, and partnering with others to ensure overall success. At the same time, it’s my job to stay ahead of local, state, national and international trends, pay attention to what our competitors are doing, and to ensure that we, as an institution, are ready to pivot or respond to changes as needed.

Q2: Please tell us a bit about yourself, your background and what drew you to the enrollment management position?

During my career, I’ve worked in a number of roles across large public universities, but the roles that most shaped me were in college-access programming and admissions. A mentor recruited me from a position managing a college-access program to a leadership role in admissions. After that, I really began to learn about enrollment management and I saw a way that my commitment to college access could have an even broader impact. Also, I’m fascinated with the complexities of the areas we encompass and how fundamental our work is to the efficacy of an institution. There is not a lot of room for error in what we do, in any of our offices. Our work is constantly changing and we are often the area of the University that feels external pressures first. The work requires strong attention to detail, an understanding of how to use data, a great deal of transparency and teamwork, and excellent people skills. It’s also extremely important to have a deep commitment to our students. There are a large number of “Monday morning quarterbacks” around enrollment management, but I know it is simply because the work we do has such a broad-reaching impact.

Q3: What changes do you foresee in student enrollment in the near term? In the long term?

In the short term, Purdue is very well-positioned. The brand is well-recognized and in demand by students and families. The short term will really be about thinking strategically on how and where we continue to grow based on areas of student interest and what we want the campus composition to look like.  So while we will likely continue to grow, we will be working to be very strategic in what that looks like. Being attentive to the student experience, access to classes, ability to successfully persist and graduate in four years, and leveraging our scholarships and gift aid as strategically as possible across a large, diverse student body all are elements that will influence our plans.

In the long term, we will take that strategic filter and apply it to some of the demographic groups as needed going forward. The U.S. does not have a growing high school population but rather will be seeing some declines, or flattening of the number of high school graduates. How we position ourselves as a campus now can influence Purdue’s ability to succeed in an even more competitive market in the longer term. We will need to be nimble, responsive and attentive to the changing student base and to translate that information back to how campus can likewise adapt.

Q4.: What do you see as the biggest challenges and/or opportunities for Purdue from an enrollment management perspective?

Purdue is perceived as an institution that is innovative and willing to step outside traditional higher education models. As such, others look to us as a leader in higher education and they watch what we do. That is a unique position in higher education and allows us to embed that type of thinking into all of our units. We want to leverage Purdue’s innovative reputation in a way that attracts more students and helps them to be successful. Compared with numerous campuses nationwide that are struggling to make their enrollments each year, Purdue is uniquely positioned in an extremely positive way. 

Like many areas of campus, Enrollment Management is grappling with space constraints, discussions around maintaining the quality of the student experience and potential overcrowding in some areas. These current pressing challenges have many impacts on our work. From a broader EM perspective, we’re finding that we cannot rely on historical trends for projecting and predicting what to do in future years. Going forward, too many factors are changing too rapidly to reasonably continue to rely on historical modeling as we’ve done in years past. Market forces are requiring us to become more sophisticated at an increasingly rapid pace.

Q5: What else do you want your colleagues at Purdue to know about you?

First, I am extremely passionate about what we do and couldn’t be happier to be working with our tremendously successful team here at Purdue. Nevertheless, enrollment is a campus-wide effort and it requires strong relationships across many areas of campus to ensure success. I recognize and value how important the greater campus community is in our work, and appreciate the strong collaborative spirit within Purdue. 

Ultimately, I am just a college nerd. I love learning, I love being around great minds and thinking which pushes me not to be complacent in any way. Students constantly inspire me, and I could not imagine spending my life in a profession where I was not surrounded by all of this. Add to that great college sports and I’m a confirmed Boilermaker!

March 1, 2018

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